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Her position was quite unique because in the upper ranks of the court Aleksandra

Fyodorovna [the empress] loved toilette, balls, glitter: artists never played for her,
not even sometimes. The major artistic soires were held by Yelena Pavlovna. It was
at her residence that Nikolay Pavlovich [Tsar Nicolas I] and Hamilton held the conversation that led to the Crimean War.43

As we know from Rubinsteins own memoirs, the period he spent as podogrevatel, istopnik muzki [musical heater, stoker] to the grand duchess did not carry
a regular salary, but his accommodation and upkeep were paid for. In August
the grand duchess and her entourage went to Oranienbaum, an imperial palace
on the Gulf of Finland, where, as Rubinstein himself acknowledged, they led a
life of paradise. During this visit Rubinstein played for the Crown Prince of
Saxony and the son of the Crown Prince of Prussia and began the huge cycle of
piano pieces Kamenny Ostrovtwenty-four musical portraits inspired by the
ladies whom he had met during his stay. The dedicatees of these pieces in their
Gallicized form are shown in the index of Rubinsteins works in Appendix A.
The rst nine bear only the initials of the dedicatees in large Gothic letters (except for No. 5, Romance, which has no dedicatee). A few of the named persons (Edith von Raden, Yelizaveta Eiler, and Anne de Friedebourg) later played
a signicant role in Rubinsteins biography, but most were just representatives
of aristocratic Russian and German families. A few are worth mentioning:
Yekakerina Apraksina (ne Golitsina) (dedicatee of No. 10) was known in her
time as the whiskered countess and was thought to be the prototype for the
countess in Pushkins novella, The Queen of Spades, and Countess Antonina
Dmitryevna Bludova (the dedicatee of No. 19) acquired a certain public recognition. She was the daughter of Count Dmitry Bludov, who was a friend of the
historian Karamzin and the poet Zhukovsky, and, toward the end of his life, the
president of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Her memoirs [Zapiski ]
later appeared in the Russian press.
During the visit to Oranienbaum the grand duchess commissioned from Rubinstein a one-act opera based on Lermontovs narrative poem Hadji Abrek, a
grisly tale of vengeance set against the exotic backdrop of the Caucasus. In the
poem an old man tells how he was once forced to ee into the hills with his
youngest daughter, Leila. The girl is abducted by Prince Bey-Bulat, and the
heartbroken old man begs the young tribesman Hadji Abrek to seek her out and
bring her back to him. Hadji Abreks search leads him to a distant village where
he nds the girl. She seems indifferent when she learns of her fathers grief,
but then in a dramatized middle section Hadji reveals his true purpose. He
wants vengeance for his own brother, himself once the innocent victim of BeyBulats cruelty. But killing Bey-Bulat is too merciful: Is that vengeance? he
asks. What is death!? Will one moment pay me for so many years of sorrow,
grief, and torment? No, it is the object of Bey-Bulats love that he wishes to kill,
and with a blow of his saber he cuts off Leilas head. He then brings the head
back to the old man who dies from grief. A year later nomads discover two foul

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